National Pet Wellness Month: 5 Tips for Your Dogs Physical and Mental Health

Thanks for stopping by to help us celebrate pet wellness month (October) 2021! Below you will find our top tips on helping your beloved pet live the best life possible.  

Gone are the days that we think of our pet dogs as unfeeling and unthinking animals. Remarkably, you might be surprised to find videos on the internet about dogs crying for a dead or a dying owner. There’s also another touching video of a dog trying to defend his owner/dad from paramedics attending to him after he suffered a stroke.

The dog yelped and barked at the people who were hunched over his beloved dad, trying his best to protect him from them. Call it instinct or maybe a defensive mechanism. If a dog can respond in a way that we humans can immediately identify, there must be a connection there somewhere in-between emotion and mental capacity. Hence, it is vital for us dog owners keep our dogs healthy, not only in the body but also in the mind.

Group of healthy dogs taking selfie

Here are five things we can do to better look after our dog’s mental and physical health in honor of national pet wellness month:

1. Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition

A well-nourished dog makes for a happy one. Many commercial dog foods on the market are formulated based on the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), but make sure the dog food you choose adheres to these standards perfectly. Opt for high-quality ingredients and fewer preservatives. 

It’s also essential to make sure the caloric intake of your dog meets their daily needs. Increase or decrease their food intake depending on their activity levels. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian to figure out the ideal amount of food for your pup. 

Note: If your canine has renal problems or diabetes, make sure you consult with your vet on diets specially formulated for these.

2. Get Wellness Checkups

Sometimes it’s not enough to monitor your pet’s health on your own; bringing your dog to the vet and making sure it gets these checkups can keep it healthy and happy for a long time:

Canine getting vet checkup

Physical Exams

One of the first exams you should have your dog undergo would be a complete physical. In a physical exam, your vet observes your pet’s overall physical condition. 

Your vet will have to listen to your dog’s chest using a stethoscope for any abnormal heart rates and murmurs and their lungs for any strange breathing sounds. 

Further, your vet will also check your dog’s gait, alertness, general muscle tone, body condition, and look for any unusual discharges, lumps, mites, or signs of thickening from their eyes and ears.  

Urine & Fecal Checks

Urine and fecal checks offer vets and pet owners important digestive, kidney, and bladder health information. 

  • Fecal Exams can detect parasites, such as heartworm or other intestinal worms. Further, the exam can detect viruses, such as parvovirus and rotavirus, and bacterial infections like Leptospirosis and E Coli. 
  • A Urine Test will reveal any abnormal presence of proteins, sugar, or blood — which may indicate diabetes, urinary tract infections, or kidney stones.

Blood Work

As with humans, our pet’s blood serves as an essential window into their overall health. Blood tests analyze the level and state of your dog’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, which can indicate anemia or issues in immunity. 

They also check baseline values for glucose, proteins, cholesterol, and endocrine levels, as well as digestive enzymes, which can help identify issues with your dog’s organs. Abnormal results can point to early signs of cancer or diabetes.

Bone Density Exam

Veterinarians give bone density tests to check for fractures, infections, tumors, and bone mass degeneration. Bone exams are vital for senior dogs to see whether their bones are healthy or showing signs of degenerative disease. 

Your vet will determine through a physical examination whether your dog should undergo further bone scans.

Veterinarian giving canine dental checkup

Dental Cleaning

Your dog’s mouth may be one of the most neglected parts of its whole body. Many of us parents forget to keep our dog’s teeth clean and properly managed. It’s essential to your furry friend’s mouth for bad breath and inflammation, which could be signs of gum and tooth disease. By getting regular dental cleanings, you can prevent gum problems and teeth cavities from developing.

Regular Grooming

I know you think grooming isn’t a wellness check (I know), but it’s essential. Aside from maintaining your pup’s appearance, regular grooming is also good for your dog’s well-being. Your dog’s fur can become long and matted, and its skin can develop medical issues with time. 

Grooming rids dogs of excess hair and dead skin cells and also helps spread their natural oils. You might want to consider getting your pet a comfortable cut that matches the season too.

3. Monitor Behavior Changes

As dog owners, it’s our job to monitor and keep track of subtle changes in our dogs’ bodies to ensure they get the proper attention when they need it.

Make sure you keep an eye out for:

  • Changes in food and water intake
  • Decreased energy or low activity levels
  • Strange sleeping habits 
  • Unusual positions that may indicate pain
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Sudden loss of weight
  • Irregular lesions on the skin
  • Bad breath 

4. Exercise Your Pupster

Many believe that dogs are the product of the mighty wolf, so they need plenty of activity. The amount of exercise a dog needs depends on the kind of breed

High energy breeds such as Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers love to stay active and require tons of exercise. It’s beneficial for dogs like these to go for long daily walks and runs. Consider alternative activities like hiking, swimming, and playing fetch. 

On the other hand, low energy breeds such as Basset Hounds and Bulldogs would be happy with daily walks. Consider taking them to the park and letting them run around off-leash or playing catch with them.

5. Dog Training for Metal Health

Timid dog giving paw to owner

What Are the Signs that Your Dog May Have Mental Difficulties?

If your dog is distressed or you think a previous owner has maltreated it, you will see symptoms such as:

An unusually timid dog

This dog moves slowly and will always have its head down. It is likely to be hunched over like it would when it anticipates a beating. And in some horrible cases, it would be walking with a limp and some trembling.

An aggressive dog

Behaviors of an aggressive dog include baring of teeth and some angry, loud barking at strangers and other dogs. They engage in destructive behaviors and would eat the furniture and almost everything else in the house.

A depressed dog

A sad dog will have little to no appetite. It may also be unusually inactive and is unresponsive to social stimulation.

These are just some of the apparent signs of a dog that may be having mental problems. Most extreme cases will need a professional for proper handling and treatment.

How to Keep Your Dog Mentally Healthy

Assuming that your dog is fortunate enough to have you as their mum or dad, here are some of the basics you will need to keep in mind when taking care of your pooch. Consistency is the key to keep both of you in a balanced state of mental well-being.

Dog and owner playing fetch

Exercise to Train

Daily physical exercise for your dog, whether a simple walk or playing a game of fetch, will help your pup release some pent-up energy. Ultimately this will prevent your dog from getting bored and frustrated, as this will also help your canine avoid aggressive tendencies.

Train for Obedience

When your dog learns to follow simple commands like sit or stay, it will directly stimulate your dog’s mind by way of discipline, as well as a sense of having a job to do. The more disciplined your dog is, the more it will have control over its impulses and have the ability to follow your commands consistently.

Most dogs like to please their owners. And if they see and feel that they are doing an excellent job in obedience training, they will also be happy and always have a good disposition. If your dog is happy, there is a good chance it will be mentally healthy too.

Positive Reinforcement

In teaching your dog to housebreak or maybe leave something alone, it is best to use the rewards training method. Avoid punishing or getting mad at your dog for being accidentally disobedient. As intelligent as they are, they still cannot understand what is right from wrong.

So, be ready with your treats, and if your dog has been good or performed a task well, give them verbal praises and a treat to help them remember what they can do to make you happy.

Overall, it all boils down to YOU, its beloved mum or dad/owner, to maintain and keep doing the things that will set your dog up for success. A happy environment that only you can provide will help keep your pet in good mental health. In honor of national pet wellness month, enjoy your morning walk and happy treating, always.

Final Thoughts

Unlike humans, our pets cannot correctly communicate to us when they’re feeling pain or discomfort. And with ancestors who were primarily predators in a pack, dogs are genetically predisposed to hide any illness to keep themselves as valuable to the pack as possible. 

Our job as good pet parents is to make sure we monitor our dog’s health, keep them clean, get them adequate training/exercise, and feed them properly. And whether you’re dealing with a newly adopted puppy or a senior dog, regular vet visits and wellness exams should be scheduled to get important information about your pet’s health, as well as to detect any illness in its early stages.

Let National Pet Wellness Month be a reminder to give our dogs the extra love they need. 

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